July 18 marks sixth annual memorial run for slain North St. Paul Officer Richard Crittenden

Bikers congregate outside Neumann’s for Rick’s Ride in 2013. This year’s memorial run will take place on Saturday, July 18. (submitted photo)
Bikers congregate outside Neumann’s for Rick’s Ride in 2013. This year’s memorial run will take place on Saturday, July 18. (submitted photo)

Sean Keatts participates in a moment of silence at a prior Crittenden memorial run. (submitted photo)
Escorted by area police, more than 140 bikers rode to Prescott, Wisconsin, to honor slain North St. Paul Officer Richard Crittenden. (submitted photo)
Escorted by area police, more than 140 bikers rode to Prescott, Wisconsin, to honor slain North St. Paul Officer Richard Crittenden. (submitted photo)

Ride to start and end at Neumann’s

From his post at Neumann’s, longtime bartender Frank Kohler has forged camaraderie with a number of locals and city employees -- including the late North St. Paul Police Officer Richard Crittenden.

Kohler says Crittenden was very strict, but also knew how to joke around and have fun.

“I used to have spiky hair,” Kohler says, setting up a story about the time Crittenden ran up to him, asking if he was scared.

“He had a laugh like a tickled bear -- this belly laugh,” Kohler recalls.

On Saturday, July 18, Kohler, along with a whole slew of bikers, will share more favorite memories of Crittenden as they pay tribute at the sixth annual Rick’s Ride. Registration begins at 9 a.m. at Neumann’s Bar and the bikers will roll out at 11 a.m., headed for the first stop at Beach Club Bar and Grill in Lakeland. From there, the route heads north on the Wisconsin side of the river to Willow River Saloon in Burkhardt, then onward to Tippy Canoes in Osceola for lunch. After one last stop at Meister’s Bar and Grill in Scandia, riders will end up back at Neumann’s Bar by 4:30 p.m. for food and live music.

“Come for a day of celebration of life for a wonderful man and police officer,” Kohler says. 

Killed in the line of duty

Crittenden, 57, was a nine-year veteran of the North St. Paul Police Department.

He was shot and killed at the Aspen Village apartment complex around 8:30 a.m. on Labor Day, Sept. 7, 2009, while responding to a domestic disturbance call.

When Crittenden and Maplewood police officer Julie Olson arrived, they confronted a male suspect and a struggle ensued. During the struggle, Crittenden was shot and killed while attempting to protect the woman.

Olson sustained a gunshot to the wrist, returned fire and killed the suspect, Devon Dockery, 34.

Crittenden is survived by his widow, Christine, son Rick Jr., daughter Stacy and grandchildren.

Christine continues to honor her husband by driving his retired squad car -- which has been converted to a tribute car, decorated with the names of more than 270 other fallen Minnesota officers -- to funerals and memorial events across the nation.

Crittenden had previously served with the Wabasha County Sheriff’s Office for four years. He also served in Vietnam with the U.S. Army.

He’s the first North St. Paul police officer ever to have been killed in the line of duty.

Police-escorted ride

Officer Steve Ronnie has been one of the driving forces behind the memorial motorcyle event, which began in 2010. Ronnie served as Crittenden’s field training officer when he first joined the North St. Paul Police Department. He also got to know Crittenden’s wife, Christine, while she worked as a reserve officer for the same department.

“We were trying to help with something to memorialize Rick and this is something I knew he enjoyed doing,” Ronnie says.

Crittendon rode the police department’s Harley while on duty and rode his own Harley for fun.

Area police will participate by escorting the bikers through intersections along the route. In years past, the convoy has consisted of as many as 140 bikes, Ronnie says.

Some knew Crittenden while he served as an officer in North St. Paul. Others are getting to know him through the stories that are shared each year.

Steve Verhulst, 63, a graduate from North High School, has participated the past two years. He didn’t know Crittenden, but he’s added the memorial run to his summer list.

“I like going on runs, and you’ve got to pay tribute to an officer who gave his life like that,” he says, pointing out the fact that he’s wearing the T-shirt he purchased from the event last year.

He’s also started decorating his leather biker vest with memorabilia from the event. He bought the Rick’s Ride patch in 2013 and his first rocker to place beneath the patch in 2014.

Food, music, stories

There is a $20 registration fee for drivers and a $10 fee for passengers. Proceeds will be donated to Make-a-Wish, Thin Blue Line and Disabled American Veterans.

After the ride, participants are invited to stick around Neumann’s for bar food, drinks and music by the Inside Straight Blues Band.

For those who want to reminisce, there will be plenty of time for that as well.

Kohler says Crittenden -- or “Critter” as he was commonly known -- was an “old school” cop who’d intervene before an inebriated bar patron risked getting behind the wheel.

But he didn’t play favorites. 

“I think I [got] the last ticket he gave,” Kohler says.

He had blown through a stop sign when he heard Crittenden’s familiar voice projecting over the intercom.

“He said, ‘Frank, pull over. You didn’t even try to stop. I have to give you a ticket.’

“We were both laughing.”

If you go...

Pay tribute to Officer Crittenden at the Rick’s Ride event on Saturday, July 18.

Registration begins at 9 a.m. at Neumann’s Bar located at 2531 E. Seventh Ave. in North St. Paul. The ride starts at 11 a.m. and concludes back at Neumann’s Bar around 4:30 p.m. with food and live music to follow.

Erin Hinrichs can be reached at 651-748-7814 and ehinrichs@lillienews.com. Follow her at twitter.com/EHinrichsNews.

 

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